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Saunders on... West Ham United

Filed: Sunday, 11th March 2012
By: Staff Writer

Dean Saunders reflects on a game from which his Doncaster team could have taken all three points - yet still tipped West Ham for promotion. His full press-conference, exclusively, follows...

Dean: you should have won it?

Yeah, we should have. It's been our Achilles Heel really, we've missed too many chances - we should have won the last nine games, we've just missed too many chances.

I thought we were going to get battered there in the first ten minutes. They started really well, we didn't start properly. Carlton Cole was causing us all sorts of problems with his strength in the air and Nolan was playing just behind him and he was causing us a problem as the ball kept squirting through to him. So we changed the shape of the team after 10/15 minutes and we looked better straight away.

We got a draw, but Giles Barnes had a free header, [Mamadou] Bagayoko's missed an open goal with a header and then the goalkeeper makes an unbelievable save at the end when I thought we'd won it. I can't complain [though], I thought we played some great football. They're obviously a good team, I think they're going to get promoted.

That will seem like a bad result to them but it's not really when you're trying to get promotion. They won't lose many games. They can't have it all ways [with] every team that's playing against them; we're fighting for our lives. There's 30-odd thousand people there watching the game and they all think you're going to win but it's not easy. We've got a group of players there who are fighting for their careers, to stay in the league.

El Hadji Diouf is never going to win too many popularity competitions but he was man of the match by a country mile today, wasn't he?

Yeah, well he's a class player. I thought [James] Coppinger, Pascal Chimbonda and Diouf down the right-hand side second half [were excellent]; some of the one-touch football they played was just class. Pascal got clear there once and I thought "goal" [but] the 'keeper makes a brilliant save. But he's doing well. Was he involved in the goal?


Yeah... I know Coppinger bundled it over the line. That's probably 11 assists and six goals he's got, I think - so he's contributing. That's the stats, when you look at the stats.

The quality of your football in the second half - the way you were playing it about - was very impressive. You didn't look like a side who are battling against relegation?

We've beaten Southampton, we've beaten Leicester, we've beaten Barnsley and we should have beat Cardiff - we missed 13 chances and drew 0-0. We're 2-0 up at Leeds with 20 minutes to go and they get two deflections and scored in the 98th minute. We were 1-0 up against Peterborough two weeks ago - 93rd minute, they equalise - and last week against Brighton we should have won but drew one-all. So we could quite easily be half way up the table by now if we'd have had a bit of luck.

Today, for Robert Green to make that save? An unbelievable save. But saying that, Collison had a chance in the 90th minute - I shut my eyes when the ball dropped and luckily he screwed it wide!

You've installed some real passion and pride in the shirt, that was evident today. What do you put that down to?

No disrespect but who do you want to play against next season - the teams who are coming down from the Premier League or some of the teams coming up from League Two? They're fighting for their lives because if you get relegated, everything gets cut. Number one, your money gets cut - so they know how important it is. We've got 13 games to go, we probably need to win five or six of them, six probably. 18 points. We've got 30 points, 48 - hopefully - keeps you up. I don't know how the results went today. Did they all win? Some of them won, did they? [shrugs shoulders]

How proud are you of the character and commitment of the players after going behind?

Well I think that's 10 or 11 times we've come back from a goal down. As I said, if you'd have walked out of the ground after 10, 15 minutes today you'd have thought "this could be any score, this". The players have dug in and they've turned the game round, stayed in the game. Didn't go 2-0 down and eventually... John Oster came on and made a difference, he's brilliant with the ball and linked everything up. Giles Barnes gives you a bit of aggression and pace and that was Coppinger's best game for a while as well. I was proud of all of them; I was actually stood on the side watching and I was proud. Sometimes you cringe! But today, I was proud.

Did you even expect Tommy Spurr to start let alone get through 90 minutes? Is he fully fit?

Well he got carried off on Tuesday with a dislocated hip, I thought. So I signed [Herita] Ilunga - and he was fit the next day! [laughs]

You got another injury today with [Shelton] Martis going off. Is he going to be out for a while?

He thought his groin was going to go completely like it did at Barnsley, he was out for six weeks then. But he's said it hasn't gone, fingers crossed it's just a little niggle. Then when Diouf went down by the corner flag I thought his hamstring had gone - my first thought was "that's him gone for three weeks". But as usual, he was acting; playing a little game with himself! [laughs]

Are you going to sign another centre-back to make sure Martis is fit for the next game as well!?

No, I've got Sam Hird and Locky [Adam Lockwood]. Obviously we've got Frederic Piquionne to come into that team and you'd like to think with all that football we played today, with him in the box he can keep doing what he did for us at [Nottingham] Forest. As I said, if you make chances the hardest thing to do is put the ball in the net and normally at this level you've got to pay a couple of million - so I think we've got a really good player for a small wage. Hopefully he can bang some goals in for us.

After the game, were you pleased to get a point or disappointed that you didn't get three?

If you'd have asked me after 15 minutes, a point. Then, if you'd have asked me at the end of the game I thought we should have won. We played enough football and created enough chances but against a really top team with a good manager who knows what he's doing... He's got a team there that are really strong and they'll overpower most teams. If you turn up and you're not at the races they'll overpower everyone, they've got really good players all over the pitch.

Ok lads? Thanks.

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